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The best camera, they say, is the one you have with you. That’s usually your smartphone, but there’s only so much it can do. Even with software wizardry like the Google Pixel’s Night Sight or two extra lenses on the back, a good compact camera gives you features like optical zoom, better image stabilization, and a bigger sensor for sharper photos, along with a way nicer dials and controls. These cameras, also called point-and-shoot cams, give you the tools to explore photography in ways that portrait mode simply can’t.Be sure to check out our many other buying guides, including our roundups of the Best Action Cameras, Best Mirrorless Cameras, and Best Camera Accessories for Your Smartphone.Updated March 2020: We’ve tweaked pricing and other information throughout this guide.When you buy something using the links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Here’s how it works.Photograph: CanonBest OverallCanon PowerShot G7 X Mark IIThis Canon sits right in the sweet spot for price, features, and image quality. It’s relatively affordable, too. The G7 X captures detailed images thanks to a big 1-inch sensor, optical stabilization, and 4.2x zoom. The tilting touchscreen and built-in Wi-Fi increase its utility.I appreciate the wide selection of controls given the compact size. Canon found room for an exposure compensation dial and a front dial around the lens. This petite device also sports a comfy, confidence-inspiring rubber front grip and rear thumb rest that make it satisfying to hold. It’s not the newest on the market but it’s still a remarkably solid camera in 2020.Photograph: SonyBest on a BudgetSony Cyber-shot RX100Need the basics? This tried-and-true Sony model, though several years old, is still a gem—especially since the price keeps dipping every time Sony releases newer versions. The latest is the RX100 VII and it retails for about $1,300. But for around $450, you can scoop up this earlier model. It comes standard with a 3.6x optical zoom lens. It lacks modern amenities like touch input and Wi-Fi, but the money you save can go a long way toward building up a solid travel photography kit complete with tripods, straps, and carrying cases.Photograph: PanasonicBest for ZoomingPanasonic Lumix ZS100If you want to get up close and personal, Panasonic’s compact Lumix ZS100 gives you way more zoom than the competition. Rather than 3 or 4x optical zoom, this camera has a lens that can go up to 10x. The camera’s 1-inch sensor is on par with some of the best compact cameras. Standard 4K video and Wi-Fi, along with a great touchscreen interface, make this camera feature-full and easy-to-use—even if the body isn’t as svelte as some of the others on the list.
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